Combating the Opioid Epidemic

Jan 11, 2019

The opioid epidemic is one of the greatest public health threats to confront the American people. The CDC estimates that opioids claimed nearly 50,000 lives in 2017 alone. That number has been steadily rising for more than fifteen years.

How did things get this bad? A deadly combination of factors.

Chief among them is drug diversion–the unlawful distribution of regulated pharmaceuticals from legal sources for illegal use. This practice can range from one individual providing medications to someone other than the prescribed patient to complex criminal schemes that create tens of thousands of victims.

This problem isn’t just impacting those who use opioids and their loved ones; it is affecting entire communities. Local health, law enforcement, emergency, and social service agencies are stretched to their limits.

Members of the healthcare community must do everything possible to help end this crisis. And, while organizations in the health system each play a different role in the process, we should all begin by:

  • Identifying and engaging at-risk beneficiaries who have been prescribed extreme amounts of opioids or are visiting multiple prescribers and pharmacies.
  • Conducting data mining and analysis based on utilization and prescribing patterns.
  • Utilizing advanced analytics to transition from retrospective data analysis to predictive modeling—opening the door for early intervention.
  • Evaluating the utilization of non-controlled substances that can be used as potentiators with opioids.

Just as this issue was not created in a vacuum, it cannot be solved in one. Stakeholders from across healthcare need to work together to share data, engage with members, and save lives. With access to open channels of communication, PBMs, in particular, can add significant value when it comes to processing, analyzing, and predicting behavior. In this fight, we need all of the information we can get.

Abarca is “all in” to combat the opioid epidemic, and we challenge each of our partners and clients to join us.

This blog was written by Ángeles Monroig, Compliance Officer at Abarca, based on her presentation at the 7th Annual CBI Pharmacy Benefit Compliance Congress.


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